Posts Tagged research

Stop using your great grandfather’s vocational assessment

What do you want to be when you grow up?

As kids, we were asked that all the time, and I bet no one answered, “information security analyst,” “operations research analyst” or “web developer,” just a few of the top jobs for 2016.

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 1.02.20 PM

When counselors direct high school students to vocational assessments today, students might still not be able to mention those specific careers, only because they don’t know the wide variety of options out there. And that’s the problem with current high school vocational assessments: they don’t point kids in the right direction for modern career paths.

The most-used high school vocational assessment is the “Strong Interest Inventory®” assessment. At $200 a pop (or the price of a Chromebook), you have to wonder how widely used it is, and from my consumer product marketing background, that calls into question the “scientific validation” they tout.

How relevant can it be if a wide cross section of people haven’t taken it? MySpace and Facebook are both social networks, but can anyone argue that MySpace has any insights into consumer or social trends since no one uses it?Even the name sounds old-fashioned, and there’s a reason for that.

The Workforce When SII Was Born

The SII was developed in 1927 to assist military men returning from World War I looking for work. Let’s paint a little picture of what the world looked like then. First of all, there were only 119 million people, and as you might imagine, the typical worker was a white male.

No surprise, the top job was manufacturing, and Henry Ford was offering Southerners $5 a day to come to work in the emerging auto industry. (“Women and negroes” not welcome, the ads said.)

And that pay scale actually doesn’t sound bad when you consider that “super-rich Americans” were those making about $10,000 a year.

The Workforce Now

In 2016 you might say the landscape looks just a little different. First of all, we’ve got 325 million of us – and growing. Top-paying jobs all involve STEM fields; in fact, at some companies, coders are writing their own paychecks.

Henry Ford’s amazing $5 a day offer? That can barely get you a coffee. He probably wouldn’t need to recruit people from outside of area, anyway, since current migration patterns are from suburbs to urban centers, where today’s young adults are less likely to want a car. And, those “women and negroes?” Well Mary Barra is CEO of Ford’s competitor General Motors, and our president is black. (The $5 was actually split 50/50 between pay and bonus!)

Super-rich Americans are counting their money in billions rather than thousands, and three of the top five earned their wealth through technology-based companies.

The whole world is available on the smartphones we carry in our pockets, instantly updated rather than relying on the printing press and newspaper of 1927.

Ch…ch…changes

When you consider the evolution (or rather revolution) that has taken place in the workforce since the SII was introduced, it makes that assessment seem pretty quaint doesn’t it?

To be fair, the SII was updated in 2012, but four years in today’s world seems like an eternity: We were still using the iPhone 4 and Snapchat was just a ghost of an idea. The IoT, smart homes and fitness trackers were all just becoming part of our vernacular. And wrap your mind around this: Adele was blowing us away with her first album, and we were gaga for Gangnam Style. (Sorry, I know that’s in your head now.)

That’s why many career counselors and educators are wondering if there’s something more accessible and more current out there in the world of high school vocational assessments to help address today’s career path discovery and education planning.

A tool that hasn’t just evolved, but that has been created specifically to fit the needs of today’s workforce. An instrument that takes into account our growing expectation of work/life balance, telework and the gig economy. One that is not cost-prohibitive in a world where freemium is the norm.

At Vireo Labs, we believe there is a better way for all high schoolers to assess their potential. And, we look forward to keeping you updated.

– Jose Mallabo

, , , , , , ,

No Comments

Practice what you teach: The $4.8 million case for centralizing university marketing

Doing marketing and PR within higher education is among the most complicated jobs imaginable. I tell my former colleagues working in consumer or corporate positions that it’s a lot like 10,000 of your customers living together in your company’s building and their parents live around the corner.

The crisis and contingency planning in university PR alone eats up the best of us. The worst-case scenario in my former corporate PR jobs was that the stock price drops a few points. The worst-case scenario in university PR is enacting the active shooter plan and figuring out who calls the FBI, when to reach out to parents and staying behind to deal with CNN while everyone else is evacuated. I used to think the only difference was the stock options.

The recruitment marketing side of things aren’t that dire, but it’s no less daunting from a channel and content perspective. Your target audience is a teenager living a busy high school life while planning an adult life and career. Their influencers are parents, friends, guidance counselors and aspirational people (real and fictional) in the world at large – experienced through countless media platforms. Factor in the 12 to 18 month sales cycle during the prospect’s most formative years and you have a job wrapped in a riddle.

Thirty years ago when I was 16, universities had to coordinate two primary media: print and broadcast. Within those there was owned (school collateral sent snail mail), earned (media placements) and probably TV advertising. (If you were lucky your school had a Division 1 team and got on national TV once in a while.)

Today, the recruitment marketing funnel looks like this with the many touch points and channels across the top.

Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 2.02.13 PM

Assuming you can master each of these channels, getting your content to look and feel the same in a print catalog, your web site, paid promotion on Facebook, search on Google, email marketing and signage during an event is no small feat. Success is a function of organizational design and having a centralized department directing all of these channels and the content that flows through them.

The fly in the ointment for many universities is mobile – the most important medium of this generation of high school students. According to Chegg 81% of todays teens have visited a college web site for admissions information using a mobile device. Unfortunately, according to Noel Levitz, only about half of colleges have a responsive web site.

Imagine if only half of all college admissions buildings had a door.

Clearly, there are huge gaps and inefficiencies in this marketing model and it shines some light on why 4-year private colleges spend a median of $2,433 to recruit a single student – that’s $4.8 million for a freshman class of 2,000 students. This fall, 18.1 million new undergraduate students arrived on campuses in the United States.

Do the math.

Integrating all of these channels with an emphasis on mobile can drive these costs down, streamline processes and avoid the dreaded 15th email to the same prospect from three different departments at the same university. But getting your story coordinated internally is just part of it. Mapping it to the new careers-first logic being applied to college research is the last and most important mile.

Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 2.10.55 PM

@wiltanger Tweets about her daughter’s college research approach.

Not too long ago we went to college to figure it all out. You marketed a school as a place to be because it was enough to get there to find yourself and come out as a “college man.” Now, students go through college. It is a means to a vocational end for the affluent, middle class and lower class. The wealthy want to stay that way and the rest of us want a bigger piece of the action so the search begins with a career path and ends with the educational solution that gets them there.

Leaning into this vocational positioning for most universities is hugely problematic. It goes against generations of selling the self-realization destination and social status that comes with college. And, more practically, staying on the high ground above the University of Phoenix. The good news is all of these new channels for reaching prospective students (mobile, search marketing, social media) are perfect platforms to engage in the discussion about career outcomes. It just takes planning and execution against a single strategy.

Channel coordination and consistent positioning is something every business and organization faces as it grows. Universities should know this better than anyone. Because many of their schools actually teach those lessons of integrated marketing communications within their degree programs every day.

No university in the world grants degrees in silo-based marketing, but plenty of them practice it.

– Jose Mallabo

, , , , , , , ,

No Comments

Why hasn’t PR made measurement core to its function? Q&A with Forrest Anderson

I’ve been kicking around the idea of doing a post about research and measurement in PR for some time. Namely, I really want to ask why PR hasn’t done a better job making this core to the function when there are scads of resources on the subject.  Frankly, I’m not the expert on this subject as I’ve spent more of my career creating content than measuring how it impacts the audiences its intended for.  Despite having an advanced degree in this area, I’m guilty as charged.   Instead I reached out to my former colleague — Forrest W. Anderson who is not just a measurement expert but one of the sharpest communications strategists I’ve been around in my career.

Below is an un-edited Q&A I had with him this week.  My questions.  His answers.  My parenthetical interjections.

Q: What is the single most important thing people need to remember when looking to measure the impact of communications programs?

A: The single most important thing people need to remember when looking to measure the impact of a communications program is their definition of impact, which should come from the initial, measurable objectives of the program.  If you’re trying to change behavior (increase sales, reduce employee turnover, etc.) you should try to measure that change in behavior.  If you’re trying to change awareness and/or attitudes, you should measure changes in awareness and/or attitudes.  Most likely you would do this with a pre- and post-program survey.  If you’re trying to increase media coverage, then you might measure clips.  If you’re trying to increase positive media coverage, then you need not only to count clips but assess the tone of the content in those clips.

Q: What is the most common mistake you see companies making in buying measurement and research?

A: To me, the most common mistake I see companies make when they do invest in measurement and research is they focus more on evaluation (or measurement) and less on the research they should do to plan the program. The first step in any program should be to articulate a measurable objective.  The next step should be to do research on the target audiences and the business environment so you know what kinds of messages and concepts will appeal to the target audience, which media reach the target audience and what’s going on in the world that might affect the way your target audience will react to your intended messages.  The evaluation piece is fairly straightforward, if you’ve created a solid measurable objective for the program.

The measurable objective is a big stumbling point.  Without one, you cannot evaluate.  This is why so many companies that invest in media evaluation systems that use online data bases are disappointed after a year of using the service.  Neither the client organization nor the evaluation system vendor thinks out what the measurable objectives should be for any given program.  It frequently turns out, then, that there is a mismatch between what the tool measures and what the organization wants to achieve.

Q: Communications research has been around a long time, why haven’t PR people done a better job making it core to their programs and the industry?

A: I think there are a number of reasons.

  • In the past it has been expensive relative to the investment in the program, so there was a question regarding whether you should spend the money trying to get more results or measuring what you achieved.  The online systems have made clip analysis less expensive than in the past, and we can also do surveys online for much less than in the past.
  • Some communications professionals are afraid of what they will find out if they measure.  An agency, for example, might not want its client to learn that a program had not achieved the goals the client requested or the agency promised.  This is a very unprofessional point of view because there is no way anyone can improve as a professional if they do not measure the effectiveness of what they do, learn from it and try to do better.  The same situation exists for some internal communications departments, with organizational executives taking the client role and the communications departments acting like agencies.  Again this is too bad.  There is a fair amount of anecdotal and some scholarly evidence that communications departments that do evaluate are more highly thought of by the CEOs of their companies than are those that do not evaluate.
  • Last, but certainly not least, I believe many people go into public relations to avoid having to deal with numbers and numerical analysis.

(So true. I’ve lost count how many PR people have said to me “I’m not good with numbers.” Cop out.  Reading cross tabs isn’t that hard. And who hasn’t had a client that was BS-ing his boss about results?)

Q: CEO’s often just want to pay for clippings and see their names in headlines, how do you get past this?

A: If a CEO is that shallow, you’re going to have a number of operational problems in the organization that probably will outweigh communications issues.  These will only be the tip of the ice berg.  That said, the best way I know to influence CEOs is with data.  If a senior communications person believes the organization should be doing something, he or she should look for data that supports their point of view and present it to the CEO.  For example, if our communications executive (CE) believes the main competitor is winning partly because of the good media coverage it is getting vs. the poor media coverage the CE’s company is getting, a quantitative report demonstrating this would be more likely to sway the CEO than just saying “I think we should do this.”

I once did a $200,000 communications audit for the U.S. subsidiary of a European owned company.  The whole purpose of the audit was to demonstrate to the European owner that the U.S. subsidiary needed to invest in public relations.  The study made the case and HQ supported a major increase in PR funding.

Q: Is social media helping or hurting research and measurement in communications?

A: I would say social media is confusing research and measurement in communications.  What it is helping is dialog. In the past, there were very few direct communications channels open between an organization and its stakeholders, so market research gave management insight into who comprised a stakeholder group, what they cared about, what they thought, etc.  However, with social media, organizations can actually communicate directly with stakeholders, assuming stakeholders wish to communicate with the organization.  This is great!

The danger comes when an organization begins to believe that a handful of active users of social media users represent the entire stakeholder group.  There can be a big difference between what a few vocal individuals think and what most the population thinks. So, I believe social media is a wonderful way to get some insight into stakeholder groups, but I also think we need to be very careful about extrapolating that insight to larger populations.  I do not believe social media is a replacement for research.

(I agree with that. And think the hype and sex appeal of social has done a lot to distract companies from focusing on the basics — like research and measurement. People are off building Facebook pages when they haven’t even studied their core audiences to see how they interact with existing PR content and programs.)

Q: Is agenda setting theory still valid?

A: Unless I misunderstand your question, the agenda setting theory is based on the idea that the media sets the news agenda by choosing which topics to cover.  Thus the news media exerts great influence over not only the topics its audience thinks about but also how the audience thinks about those topics.  I’m not sure I ever completely bought into this theory, because I believe good journalists tried to choose topics that were of interest to their audiences and did some research with their audiences to determine what these topics were.  So, the influencers were influenced by those they influenced.

Whether this last bit was true in the past or not, it is certainly true now.  Anyone with access to the Internet can publish now, and very many do.  Tools such as Twitter’s “Trending” will tell you which topics (or key words) are being discussed the most at any given time, and journalists can and do use those kinds of tools to choose the topics they cover.  I would say the influenced are influencing the influencers more than ever before.  However, this is just a theory.  I don’t have data on this.

Q: If you could build a strategic communications program for Facebook, what would it look like?

A: This sounds like what should be a paying gig.

I told you he was sharp.  It really should be a paying gig.

-Jose Mallabo

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 Comments